Tennessee's rich business history is marked by our strong, hard-working people and their passion for commerce. It is these characteristics that have created and produced quality products and brands known around the world. The key to our success is the innate independence of Tennesseans, the propensity to speak our minds, find the truth and move forward together.
The Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry is proud of our history of aggressively ensuring that Tennessee is a great place for employees and employers to live, work, raise their families and prosper. We are proud of our work promoting a great business climate.
Tennessee is frequently noted as one of the least burdensome states in the country in which to do business. Perhaps most importantly, the Tennessee Chamber is proud of the positive impact on job creation and economic opportunity that our work creates for Tennessee families and communities.
Following our founding in Chattanooga in 1907, the Tennessee Chamber moved to Nashville in 1912 and successfully initiated legislation to make Tennessee a "right to work" state that does not force employees to join a union or pay union dues in order to work. Through our conversations with business leaders, we believe that increasing the level of unionization will make it more difficult to both attract new jobs and to expand jobs for our existing employers not only in Southeast Tennessee, where a United Auto Workers (UAW) unionization effort is currently underway, but all across our state.
The fact that Tennessee currently has a very low percentage of private company union members has made our state a magnet for businesses looking to expand or relocate. Negative attitudes toward union membership are deeply engrained in our culture and our workforce who believe they can deal with their employers on a personal basis without the interference of an outside, special interest third party.
We and business leaders note that labor unions negatively impact productivity that ultimately lead to higher costs, job losses and a deeply confrontational relationship where strikes and ultimately plant closures become an all too common occurrence. As a result, some companies have chosen instead to abandon their presence in unionized areas and to relocate and start new relationships in other states.
Let me be clear: We believe strongly that employers and employees must collaborate without the interference of unions. Open communication and collaboration promote the interests of everyone in our communities and throughout our state.
As the voice of business in Tennessee, we are committed to developing and maintaining a responsible, safe work environment for all Tennessee employees. The collaborative efforts of business interests, government officials and employee rights groups over the years prove that Tennesseans do not need labor unions to represent them. The successful work of each of these stakeholders with the Tennessee General Assembly has resulted in the enactment of fair labor laws that protect employee rights, ensure a safe workplace, maintain the integrity of our unemployment insurance system and ensure that other deserved worker benefits are provided in a fair and efficient manner — all while making and keeping Tennessee economically prosperous.
While it is ultimately the decision of the hardworking employees at the Volkswagen facility in Chattanooga, we, and businesses across the Volunteer state, are optimistic the right decision will be made. We believe that Volkswagen employees will vote to avoid representation by out-of-state special interests. Too much is at stake as the entire Southeast and nation watch what happens here in Tennessee.
The UAW's presence would permanently change the interactions between employees and their employers and would not make Southeast Tennessee, or the Volkswagen plant, better.
Bradley Jackson is president and CEO of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry, and the Tennessee Manufacturers Association.